California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

Off-White releases The Ten collection

Photo courtesy of Sneaker News

Photo courtesy of Sneaker News

Liam Beyerle,
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Before Draymond Green wore a pair of the Off-White x Nike REACT Hyperdunk shoes on opening night of the 2017 NBA season, Off-White had already been a luxury fashion brand on the rise. Founded by Virgil Abloh in 2013, Off-White, the street/luxury label’s mission statement is defining the grey area between black and white as the color Off-White.

Off-White recently jumped to number three on the Business of Fashion website Hot Brands list behind luxury icons Balenciaga and Gucci. Off-White has a chance to rise to the top of these rankings in the fourth quarter as they will release the biggest collaboration of the year with Nike.

The collaboration features Abloh’s reconstruction of iconic Nike, Jordan and Converse silhouettes. The collection is called “The Ten” and is divided into two parts: “REVEALING” and “GHOSTING.”

The REVEALING set includes the Air Jordan I, Nike Air Max 90, Nike Air Presto, Nike Air VaporMax and Nike Blazer Mid. With this set Virgil cut these icons up and gave them an unfinished look.

The GHOSTING set includes the Converse Chuck Taylor, Nike Zoom Fly SP, Nike Air Force 1 Low, Nike React Hyperdunk 2017 and Nike Air Max 97. This iconic footwear is made with translucent material.

Just like the recent collaboration with Supreme and Louis Vuitton, this collaboration continues to show that urban street culture can coexist in the luxury market. For example, the Air Jordan 1 shoe, which has already been crowned shoe of the year by Footwear News, will have a retail price of $190 but there have already been multiple pairs for sale on eBay for over $3000. Other pairs in The Ten collection will be sold by aftermarket retailers in the $600-1200 range.

Street culture has been a part of the mainstream for a while with brands like Obey and Stussy, but neither has been able to blend with the luxury market like Supreme and Off-White have.

While many would view the luxury fashion brands accepting of this culture, there is a concern to whether or not they will just use these brands to maintain their relevance and earn street cred.

Cal State East Bay professor Anita Chang said, “For me, it’s a classic case of monetizing culture.” She also suggested that it is important to see how these luxury brands are advertising these products and who they are targeting. A legit concern for brands and consumers alike.

Virgil Abloh was born in 1980 and raised in Rockford, Illinois about 90 minutes from downtown Chicago, where he now resides. Abloh’s path to the top of the fashion world is an interesting one. He holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Although Off-White is a relatively new brand, Virgil has been a huge part of pop-culture for more than a decade as a member of Kanye West’s creative team since 2002.

The first individual project that got his name out there was his brand, Pyrex Vision. Abloh printed a Caravaggio painting on the front of a champion hoodie with PYREX and the number 23 printed on the back. In a lecture at Columbia University, Virgil explained the hoodie was designed to look like a jersey, but read like a two line poem.

It reflects a popular saying in many impoverished neighborhoods that the only way to make it out is selling drugs or playing basketball. The popular Pyrex glassware for cooking and baking is often used to cook crack and the number 23 is a nod to one of his childhood heroes, Michael Jordan.

Although Pyrex Vision was short lived, it was an important part of his personal development as a designer and propelled him into the luxury fashion market with Off-White.

Abloh is very open with people about the design process at Off-White. He has given some highly informative lectures at places like Columbia, Rhode Island School of Design and, most recently, at Harvard where he pretty much told the audience he was going to open his laptop and discuss unreleased products, which, he said, he would probably get in trouble for showing.

One of his best quotes was from his Columbia lecture where he recalled his first day of architecture school and the professor telling the class, “Only 3 percent of you are actually going to build buildings.” Virgil’s internal response was, “Touche, I didn’t come here to build buildings.” This comment embodies his sense of fun and “why not” attitude that has made him so successful in the fashion world.

He still feels he doesn’t belong and uses that feelings as inspiration. In the same lecture, he played the song “T-Shirt” by rap group Migos with one of his fashion shows playing in the background. As the song played, he became noticeably excited as he Snapchatted the audience and the screen. After the song finished, he said, “Life goal complete. Migos at architecture school.”

While this may seem insignificant, it shows Virgil’s passion of challenging tradition and authenticity as a person, which is quite the opposite of the fashion world’s usual elitist views.

Virgil has and will continue to be at the forefront of the fashion and pop culture world for many years to come. The Ten will likely be looked for years to come as a significant point in Virgil’s story, as well as in street and high fashion.

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Off-White releases The Ten collection